Tim Frankovich

Writer's Blog & Home of Warpsteel Press

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Book 2 Update

In my interaction with readers so far, I’ve been surprised. I’ve had almost zero questions about the plot or characters of Until All Curses Are Lifted. Instead, the number one question has been: when is the next book coming out?

I suppose that’s a good thing. And it’s both encouraging and daunting. I have expectations for this next book that go beyond my own. I have to proceed with the knowledge that some people will likely have strong opinions with the direction that I take. These characters are not just mine, now.

Book 2, Until All Bonds Are Broken, is proceeding daily, though not always as fast as I (or anyone else) would like. You can keep track of my progress with the bar on the right there. As I type this, it’s at 21.4%. That’s based on a rough idea of 130,000 words for the first draft. (The first book ended up being ~139,000.)

If you loved Marshal and Seri, you will see much more of them. At the same time, we’ll get to see more of the ongoing story from the point of view of some other characters. That includes a couple of characters who were mostly just following the main characters around in the first book. You’ll also get more from an antagonist point of view. Hmm.

I can’t give too much away yet, since I’m still early in the first draft and many things can change in the course of writing and editing. I do drop occasional hints about scenes I’m writing on my Twitter account, so follow me there if you enjoy that kind of thing.

It’s a journey, and I’m no longer alone on it. Welcome, dear readers. I promise you that I want to get the book done just as much as you do (maybe more). And I’ll work as hard as I can to get there. Thanks for joining me.

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Manning the Table

Wanna buy a book?

Yesterday, I had the privilege of setting up a “local author table” at the nearest Half Price Books location. This was my first experience with something like this and overall, it was a good one.

I set up the table just before noon. My wife came along and her smiling face helped attract customers. HPB originally had the table in a position where few people saw us until they had checked out and were leaving. I asked permission after half an hour and we were able to move the table to a more prominent location. After that, we started getting more attention.

Half the people who came by our table were friends who knew in advance – some of them old friends we hadn’t seen in quite a while! That added some extra pleasantness, and they accounted for around half the total sales.

Side note: every so often, one of the employees will page a customer, letting them know they have an offer on books they’re selling. One of them, who we heard throughout the afternoon, had a voice that sounded exactly like the late Sir Christopher Lee. Delightful.

Most common question: how long did it take you to write this?

Heard surprisingly often: my daughter/granddaughter/niece might like this. I’ll buy one for her.

Somewhat disappointingly, none of the people who came by the table were outright fantasy fans (or at least it seemed that way). Most just seemed to be avid readers of any kind and were attracted by the cover or the “local author” allure (autographs!) or whatever.

Good news: I did sell a number of copies, gave away a bunch of bookmarks, and was invited to return whenever I wanted.

Amusing theory that won’t die: a stranger came up to my wife and asked if she was the model for the book cover (Seri). She really isn’t. The cover was done by an artist in Indonesia who has never seen nor met anyone in our family, and submitted a cover design in competition with around a hundred other artists. Throughout the design process, no one noted any resemblance to my wife. Then came the cover reveal and several people suggested a likeness. And now it won’t die. Too funny.

I’m not entirely sure what I would do differently in another such event. It’s something to consider as I continue trying to find readers/buyers.

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The Forging of a Hero (Vindication review)

Vindication can be about the cubes or about the story.

If you move these wooden cubes over here, they become more important. Then you can use these cubes to trade for different cubes that give you more points, or else a card that gives you points. Sounds like a basic Euro-style game, right? And if that’s your thing, you can play the game of Vindication that way. But it’s so much more, especially for fans of storytelling.

The story behind Vindication is a hero’s journey. You start the game as a wretched guilt-ridden scumbag. Seriously, that’s what your game piece calls you. Under the premise, you’ve been tossed overboard by shipmates who grew disgusted with you. You wash up on the shore of a mysterious island full of magic and strange creatures (no smoke monster, though). A helpful stranger finds you and sets you a journey of… vindication.

Actually, it’s not so much vindication as redemption, I suppose, but there’s a lengthy debate over the name choice, if you really want to get into that.

You. Yes, you. You’re wretched. I thought you should know.

Anyway, in the course of the game, you can find ancient relics, fight monsters, recruit companions, and more, all in a quest to score the most points… er… become a real hero!

What makes this game shine is that it appeals to multiple game player styles. For those who greatly enjoy moving little wooden cubes around to trade for more little wooden cubes, etc., (i.e., a Eurogamer), this game is right up your alley. You can happily ignore all of the beautiful art and flavor text, and manipulate cubes to your heart’s content. But if, like me, you like stories and games that tell a story, you can immerse yourself in it all and explore a new tale every time you play. Perhaps you’ll recruit Beast Mistress Veroa to help you venture into the Gaping Maw and face Drogas, the Living Darkness. Maybe you’ll find the ancient relic Taker of Stars and use it to give yourself more time to search for more. Who knows?

While it’s not a pure storytelling game, Vindication opens up so many story possibilities for someone who likes to see them. As a writer, I see many hero’s journey tropes scattered throughout every one of this game’s plays. Even the companions you can recruit are divided up into mighty warriors, magic-wielders, and wise counselors (or just red, blue and yellow cards).

The lore of Vindication is deep and beautiful.

Vindication is not one of my favorite games. Yet. I’ve only played a handful of times. But it has potential to climb my rankings very fast, especially since there’s so much variety available with multiple expansions included with the base game. I haven’t even tried most of them yet!

Tabletop boardgames can be a great source of inspiration for writers, especially when they’re as rich as Vindication.

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Sometimes Fantasy Disappoints

I just finished reading a lengthy epic fantasy novel. As I closed it, I did not feel satisfaction, pleasure, or anticipation for another book. I felt… disappointed.

I’m not going to share the name of the book here. I don’t like to talk negative about books, if I can help it. (If you’re desperate to know, you can check my Goodreads profile.) And my likes are not the same as others’ likes.

Some of the disappointment came from the ambiguous ending. Did the good guys win? I wasn’t quite sure. And the primary reason for that was… who were the good guys?

The novel had three point-of-view characters. Based on the way it was written, I assumed they were the ones I should be rooting for, the protagonists, the “good guys.” And so it seemed, right up through the end. Did those three “win”? Kind of, I guess. They lived through it all, anyway.

But anther character definitely “won.” And he was portrayed as a good guy sometimes and a bad guy at other times. It wasn’t that he was conflicted, or was struggling with temptation or anything like that. It was deliberately ambiguous. I have no idea if what he accomplished in the end was a good thing for this fantasy world, or a bad thing, because I never understood his motivations or whether he understood the consequences of what he wanted to do.

Please note that I am not asking that all the characters in books be 100% good or 100% evil. I’m talking about character motivation and development.

In my novel, Until All Curses Are Lifted, one of the main antagonists is Volraag. It would have been easy to make him a straight-up villain. But I worked hard to give him a serious motivation that made sense from his point of view. That’s what I want to read. With this novel, I never got a clear understanding of the antagonist’s motivations (if he was an antagonist?).

This is one of the reasons why I love J.R.R. Tolkien so much. When I put down The Lord of the Rings for the 30+ time, I am satisfied. And it doesn’t matter which character I think about in the story, I can identify his/her motivations and status in the story. More than that, every character inspires me.

I could write a whole series on this (maybe I will, at some point), explaining how each character in The Lord of the Rings inspires and encourages me – even the “bad” guys!

I’m not opposed to making the reader wonder whether a character is good or bad. And I love to read stories where heroes fall, or villains are redeemed, because we’re all human and both those possibilities loom large in our stories. But I don’t want to read a story that ends with me wondering what I just read.

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Launch Day

This is it. In many ways, I’ve been dreaming of this day since 3rd grade.

As a child, I wrote little stories and stick figure comic strips for years. I moved on to longer stories, writing my own books. (They weren’t very good.) I went off to college, proclaiming that I was going to become a writer.

Then life happened. I realized that writers don’t make a lot of money. I needed other jobs. Those other jobs began to take up a lot of time. I fell in love. Got married. Had kids. Worked more jobs. Writing sort of… went away.

A few years ago, I somehow got motivated again. I began to write. And write. And write. I wrote a novel and submitted it to agents. It received dozens and dozens of rejections (almost all of them form). I moved on and wrote another novel. This one… this one was big. And it was good. I could tell.

I did everything I could think of to make it right. I hired an editor. I listened to beta readers. I worked through all the various processes of editing, proofing, re-writing, editing some more, proofing some more, and so on.

And now it’s here. I can pick up a physical copy of my first published novel. It’s real.

Today is my birthday. Why don’t you go buy yourself a present? I suggest a good book. Enjoy! And let me know what you think.

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Free Short Story!

A moment of rage leads to a curse beyond hope.
Will Kishin surrender or fight back?

Witness the birth of the leper assassin.

What? What is that?

The only way you can find out is to join the mailing list! There’s a form on the right there, or you can go to this page.

Today marks the release of The Leper’s Second Kill, a short story featuring the origin of Kishin, a minor (but important) character in Until All Curses Are Lifted. He’s not a very nice guy. But how did he get that way?

Early readers of my novel were fascinated by this character. His origin story wouldn’t fit in the novel itself, as it would derail the main story, so I wrote it as a stand-alone short story. It’s a tragedy, but shows how he ended up on the path he walks in the novel.

It also might contain a hint or two about things that could show up in the next book…

So join the mailing list and read it!

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Read Chapter Two

I just posted chapter two of Until All Curses Are Lifted. In this chapter, meet Seri, the second protagonist. (She’s the one on the cover.)

Check it out here!

Only a few days left until you can read the whole thing!

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Pre-Order Now!

Surprising me, Until All Curses Are Lifted is now available for Kindle pre-order!!

The paperback will be available next week.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in pre-ordering the ebook, go here now!

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Read Chapter One Now!

Only a little over a week remains before Until All Curses Are Lifted is available for purchase!

In the meantime, I’ve posted the first chapter here. Read it now and meet the first protagonist, Marshal.

Stay tuned later this week for the second chapter and an intro to Seri, the other protagonist!

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Frustrating Readers with Multi POV

Yesterday, I picked up a fantasy novel from the library and started reading. I read the first chapter and my thoughts were something like: “Okay, this character is intriguing in multiple ways. I’m interested in seeing what happens with her.”

The point-of-view (POV) shifted to a second character for the next chapter and my thoughts were something like: “Hm. Don’t really care. This character is kind of boring and the situation she’s in doesn’t interest me at all.”

I found the third character point-of-view to be interesting like the first. So two out of three isn’t bad, right?

Actually, yes. Yes, it is bad.

Think about what’s going to happen as I continue reading. As I hit chapters from the first and third POV, I’ll start each section interested. As I hit chapters from the second POV, I’ll start each section thinking, “Oh. Her again. Ugh.” In fact, several more chapters into the book, this is exactly what is happening.

Now it could very well be that later on in the story, character #2 will have captured my attention with something that hasn’t been revealed yet. But that’s assuming I keep reading the whole book. (I’m stubborn, so I almost certainly will, though I may be tempted to skip over some sections.) Some readers will bail out, toss the book, and never pick it up again.

This is the inherent danger of writing books with multiple points of view. Keeping your readers interested in each character and their story becomes more difficult with more points of view. Opening chapters are vitally important. You need to catch the reader’s interest right away, appeal to their emotions or their curiosity, in order to tie them to each character. In many ways, it’s like writing multiple books at once.

But the introduction isn’t the only place you might lose readers. Switching POV in the middle of high tension can be another. I once read a book (for review) in which the primary protagonist was an elite soldier off on dangerous missions in the Middle East. The secondary protagonist was his girlfriend back home, who… honestly didn’t have much at all to do. This led to a totally ludicrous reading situation: the guy was engaged in a life-threatening situation, bullets flying, etc., and then… the story abruptly shifted to the girl. And what was she doing? Pulling into her driveway and thinking about the guy, wondering what he was doing, how he really felt about her, etc. Hello? He’s about to die! I don’t care about your car and driveway! I don’t want to find out whether you think he’s serious about the relationship; I want to find out if he survives!

That was the most egregious example I’ve run across, but it happens frequently. I’ll admit there are times that a story has shifted points of view… and I’ve skipped over that section to get back to the character I want to read about. I’ve even done this briefly with books by some major writers.

It’s a tough balancing job. Of course people are more interested in reading about people who are more like them – whether that’s gender or personality or whatever. But a skilled writer can make readers invest in characters that are nothing like them. In the example from the first paragraphs of this blog post, the interesting characters are nothing like me, but their stories intrigue me because they contain enough mystery, emotion, and so on, to make me want to keep reading.

Until All Curses Are Lifted has two main point-of-view characters that get approximately equal time. A third character gets a handful of scenes. I had a fourth, but deleted him in the editing process because his story wasn’t compelling enough, and only served to distract from the main characters. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary to make the book work.

As I work on the second book in the series, the problem has escalated. Now I have at least four major point-of-view characters, and a couple of minor ones. As I did in the first book, I’m writing each of their stories separately before trying to decide how to balance them. It’s a writing challenge, and I love it.

How about you? Read any books where you loved one point-of-view character and hated another?

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